Live by Night by Dennis Lehane -

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane

Boston, 1926. The ’20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world.Prohibition has given rise to an endless network of underground distilleries, speakeasies, gangsters, and corrupt cops. Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of a prominent Boston police captain, has long since turned his back on his strict and proper upbringing. Now having graduated from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city’s most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the spoils, thrills, and notoriety of being an outlaw.

But life on the dark side carries a heavy price. In a time when ruthless men of ambition, armed with cash, illegal booze, and guns, battle for control, no one—neither family nor friend, enemy nor lover—can be trusted. Beyond money and power, even the threat of prison, one fate seems most likely for men like Joe: an early death. But until that day, he and his friends are determined to live life to the hilt.Joe embarks on a dizzying journey up the ladder of organized crime that takes him from the flash of Jazz Age Boston to the sensual shimmer of Tampa’s Latin Quarter to the sizzling streets of Cuba. Live by Night is a riveting epic layered with a diverse cast of loyal friends and callous enemies, tough rumrunners and sultry femmes fatales, Bible-quoting evangelists and cruel Klansmen, all battling for survival and their piece of the American dream. At once a sweeping love story and a compelling saga of revenge, it is a spellbinding tour de force of betrayal and redemption, music and murder, that brings fully to life a bygone era when sin was cause for  celebration and vice was a national virtue.

My Review

This tale chronologically tells of the rise of a main protagonist Joe, a cops son, to a position of command of many men who partake in things of an illegal criterion.

Badabing badaboom with nostalgia, a different time in history more godfather like in its climb and battle to keep power but Joe started up with no Kin in-crime, his father was a cop so he had maybe you could say a slight disadvantage to make his name in fireworks but this fact could hold importance to others. He is a man of love he falls for a few damsels, woman with power and beauty some he losses, some he married. There was one woman whom he felt attraction for and she held quite a memorable role in this story for me she had a cause a fight but under it all she had fallen victim to an enemy more closer that she could acknowledge. Read about her and all the other characters and be immersed.

The bad money and the power these characters had in this tale aided a revolution and helped create jobs in the setting up of plantations and other enterprises in hotter terrains. With the positives it had the down sides that would only be felt for those in the thick of it, the ones at the top of the echelon they are sure to loose in life-expectancy line of matters be it their sole existence or those loved near to them.

Dennis Lehane is a great writer of dialogue, crisp and flowing prose that places you in the story, the scene, the characters shoes. His great storytelling have themes of controversy, from the dark human stain of people and society, past and present from timeline of lives. I find that all his novels so far that I have read have never failed in hooking me in and immersing me in the tale. They also make great movies when adapted to screenplays.

Prohibition, prison, rebellions, FBI, KKK, Edgar Hoover and Roosevelt and all that went on in those turbulent times have important roles in this great historical fiction story that hold some truth in Americas past. From Boston, Florida, and to Cuba with revolutions and shifting of powers a splendid story a must read that will be added on my list of best reads published in 2012.

“When a woman once asked Joe how he could come from such a magnificent home and such a good family and still become a gangster, Joe’s answer was two-pronged: (a) he wasn’t a gangster; he was an outlaw; (b) he came from a magnificent house, not a magnificent home.”

“But the rules apply to all of you, no matter what your colour or creed. Never look a guard in the eyes. Never question a guard’s order. Never cross over the dirt track that runs along the wall. Never touch yourselves or one another in an unwholesome manner. Just do your time like good fish, without complaint or ill will, and we’ll find harmonious accord along the pathway to your restitution.”


And, yet, dead was dead. Gone was gone. No edifice, no legacy, no bridge named after you could change that.

You were only guaranteed one life, so you’d better live it.”

“Joe went to the door and Dion opened it and a teenager girl, all breathless energy, stood on the other side. It was the daughter in all the photographs, beautiful and apple-haired, rose gold skin so unblemished it achieved a soft-sun radiance. Joe guessed she was seventeen. Her beauty found his throat, stopped it for a moment, put a catch in the words about to leave his mouth, so all he could manage was a hesitant, “Miss…” yet it wasn’t a beauty that evoked anything carnal in him. It was somehow purer than that. The beauty of Chief Irving Figgis’s daughter wasn’t something you wanted to despoil, it was something you wanted to beatify.”


 “Donations paid for this club,” Esteban said smoothly. “Its doors are kept open the same way. When Cubans go out on a Friday night, they want to go to a place where they can dress up, a place that makes them feel like they are back in Havana, a place with style. Pizzazz, yes?” he snapped his fingers. “In here, nobody calls us spics or mud men. We are free to speak our language and sing our songs and recite our poetry.”

“Joe knew what the nod meant-this was why they became outlaws. To live moments the insurance salesman of the world, the truck drivers, and lawyers and bank tellers and carpenters and Realtors would never know. Moments in a world without nets-none to catch you and none to envelop you. Joe looked at Dion and recalled what he’d felt after the first time they’d knocked over that newsstand on Bowdoin Street when they were thirteen years old, We will probably die young.”

“President Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act on the morning of March 23, 1933, legalizing the manufacture and sale of beer and wine with an alcohol content no greater than 3.2 percent. By the end of the year, FDR promised, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution would be a memory.”


Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 02 October 2012

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